Sunday 25th September
I believe Bristol Half marathon will go down as THE highlight of 52 Half Marathons in 2016. The reason is not the scenery or the course, or the fact it’s a home half marathon but the generosity and determination of my family and friends who came along to take part. Tonight I’m humbled, grateful and full of love for my running partners, many of whom overcame their fears and went to their very limits to make it around the course. Katie is one of 5 sisters and long ago, back in the spring, they somehow managed to bully each other into signing up for the Bristol Half Marathon to run for The Grand Appeal. Laura also managed to rope in her boyfriend Faizal as well- a man of notable military pedigree who surely still possessed that grit!? The weekend crept up on everyone so quickly and on Saturday night The Family descended upon our tiny house for an education in carbohydrate loading like they’d never seen before. 2 flavours of risotto, garlic bread, fizzy drinks followed by apple pie and custard. It turns out force feeding girls is not as easy as you’d expect! Ironically husbands who weren’t running didn’t seem to be so resistant.
Personally, I’ve been aiming to take on a PB at this race for some time and today I had the pleasure of a team of friends alongside me all capable of dragging me under 1hr40mins. Matt has run marathons, ultras and 3 day events. Luke, an active member of the UK Run Chat scene and a sub 1hr25min half marathoner-not too shabby. And Mike’s been cycling up mountains all summer, his second half marathon with me this year.
And so we were ready. We caught the bus down to the harbourside and the girls were obviously nervous. But with great fear comes great fundraising. After The Warm Up on Monday night The Grand Appeal total was £5135. Pre-race we hovered at £5731 and the money just kept on coming.
Flat course, big crowd and pacemakers galore-The 100mins barrier had to fall today. Today we set out fast. What I learned from The Treadmill is that when you feel good go quick to buy yourself time for the inevitable drop. That’s what I tried to do from the start. Thankfully the boys had absolutely no problem responding to my sporadic pace changes! I went in bare, no food or GPS- just a heart rate monitor with no time on it to make sure I was working hard enough. I know I can sustain roughly 180 bpm when I’m on the edge. At 5 and 10km Matty just gave me the nod to say we were making good time. 10km we hit a new PB for me at 45mins30secs. At 16km a gentle stitch appeared which then grew over the last 5km. There’s something about 5km to go that invites another push on if you can and I tried. Weaving in and out of the rabbit warren of a course we approached Queen’s Square and I asked the boys to lift it again with 2km to go. That confidence was short lived as the stitch grew up into my ribcage and strangled my heavy breathing. Then Matty started lying to me…
“Come on mate we’ve got to lift it again”
“Come on mate, last km needs to be 4:30…. last 800m in 2mins….you’ve gotta lift it… ”
I couldn’t lift my legs let alone lift the pace and I hung on to the boys for dear life. If this wasn’t sub-100mins I don’t know when or where I could do it.
“…last 400 in 60 seconds” but I just couldn’t accelerate. I knew I couldn’t do that and my hear sank. Coming around the corner to the last 200m I just kept going as fast as I could. As the finish line came into sight, there it was: 1hr37mins… finally…I’ve hit an outdoor PB of under 100mins and by some margin! Dragged in by 3 great runners like a lame Mark Cavendish delivered to the line by his lead out team… only I was less than elegant and finished in 735th place- no podium or sprinters jersey on this occasion.
The great news is that everyone got around in one piece. Relief! It’s been an incredible weekend and I’m so grateful to everyone who took part, made the long journey to support to run with me. Thanks to the masses of people that donated their hard earned cash in week 38. At the end of Sunday we smashed through our target of £6000 and as I write this the donations are still coming in. As it stands the pot sits at £6188, a whopping £1053 from this week along.